"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
There is quite a bit of debate around who exactly Allah of Islam is, adding to the confusion is the fact that Allah literally means The God, which is a term that both Jews and Christians used before the rise and invention of Islam. Muhammad used the term Allah, because this was the Arabic term for the monotheist God in Arabia in his time period. The origins of the term is debated, since the ancients all over the Middle East had a god named El, who depending on where or what tribe one was from was seen in different lights. Knowing this we have to look at who Allah is to the Muslim and see if the traits match the person of the God who we know in Christ and yet remembering that the word Allah is used by Christians and Jews as well as Muslims to identify God.
Choosing a name for a child is one of the most important decisions of early parenting. Many search through name books, data bases, family histories, and refer to friends for name ideas for that special new little one. Studies have shown that this search really does matter, as some names are associated with great success and others seem doomed to insecurity. While not everything is in a name it does seem to have a bearing on how we see ourselves and how society sees us. While many of us go through a phases of desiring another name as children, something more romantic or heroic maybe, our name is really important to the heart of our character.
The ancient cultures believed that if one knew the real name of someone that one could hold power over that individual. A spell cast by local shaman almost always required the name of the individual involved. We as westerners might be familiar with the story of Rumpelstilzkin 1), an old tale of a little man who comes to help a damsel in distress, but for a price. When the debt comes due he offers her one chance at having the debt paid, and that is if she can learn his name. His plans are foiled as her servant stumbles upon him singing his name in the privacy of the woods. Another familiar experience in the power of our name in the West is that of the sound of our mother's calling us not just by our first name, but by our full names. Hearing that few of us can forget how the hairs on the back of our neck stood up, knowing that trouble was ahead. We knew that when all our names were listed in that call, we were in for it.
Names in the East have always been valued and considered of high importance. One looked for a name with meaning. The child was given one name, and then identified by the community as “boy the son of dad” and so on. Thus genealogy was vital to most and the tribal name that one might be associated with gave a person a standing within the community, whether for good or for ill depended on ones families name history.2) Tribal names are still a major factor in the class society of the middle east. It was only later in our history that we developed a need for even more names for identity, and thus came the middle name. Now we are often found to be represented not by a name but by a series of numbers, which we still have to protect, for how they are used will determine our standing in the community as well, as much as we hate to admit it. Our names whether long or short or even numerical hold the key to our identity, our place, and often reflect on our character.
Name changes in the ancient world were only done in the time of significant change. We might see how a name would be changed in reflection of a rise to power, but in the Bible we see name changes as a reflection of major spiritual change. Abram became Abraham as he made a covenant with God, a chosen man so also we see his wife changed to Sarah. Jacob’s conversion to Israel and Saul's conversion to Paul also are excellent examples of a major spiritual change associated with name change. Name change in the West is quite technical and requires a court approval, thus involving the State in the name and identity of the individual.
While the names that the early Israelites used for the Lord varied what stayed consistent was that His name was virtually unspeakable. When Moses spoke with Him via the burning bush, he asked how to identify Him in the pantheon of the Pharaoh's gods. He was told simply "I am that I am", which is as close to a name as we were ever given in the texts. Moses was also given the strict instruction not to misuse His name, via the ten commandments. The early Israelites knew Him by the name of Elohim, later YHWH and referred to Him as Adonai, or The Lord. El was a common Canaanite god in Abraham's day, so apparently it wasn't so much of a name change but one of gradual revelation of identity that the Israelites were to be a part of. The Israelites knew their God was one, and unique from the pantheon of other gods that the other societies made use of, but how they saw Him varied little from how the pagans saw their gods. Only on a few occasions do we hear reports of an Israelite who really got to know Him better, and those were men called prophets. The prophets ability to have converse with Adonai was special in that they were not necessarily of a priestly caste. This never occurred in the pagan practices. Most Israelites were content to leave their Lord in the temple, bringing sacrifices of blood and tithe as needed to keep His displeasure away from them. But as we see in the prophets words over and over what their Lord really wanted was a heart change, a relationship, not the simple appeasement of a hungry god. He wanted them to know Him, but never gave His proper name, only His characteristics.
Knowing this we are often baffled by the Westerners focus on what name the Muslim Arab calls God. Somehow the idea propagated that if one could prove that the name Allah was of a pagan descent then this would prove that Muhammad was just a hold over from pagans. Some scholars have gone to great lengths to reflect that Allah was an ancient deity of the moon in Arabia. The trouble with this is simple, Allah was used all over Arabia by Jews and Christians at the time and the term Allahu was the term used in ancient Syriac for God as well. One also has to look at Muhammad's idea of who he was referring to when he called upon Allah. He knew Him to be the God of Creation, of Abraham 3) and the prophets. Now this isn't to say he didn't adopt many pagan practices along the way, but his concept of God certainly had Jewish roots and not pagan ones.
Universally all the Abrahamic religions recognize the unutterable aspect of the name of God. We weren’t given His name but His character, and this is where the paths divide. We all use “in the name of God” as an invocation of His help. We all know Him by creator, powerful, Abraham's promise maker, One, compassionate, our Lord and so on, but where His characteristics differ is where our different religions find their own path. (Also of note all Abrahamic religions occasionally refer to Him in pleural phrases. 4))
Those of the Jewish faith continue to know Him as they have for centuries past, but tread not into the holy of holies. He remains for but a select few a deity for the temple. The day to day lives of the Jewish faithful are filled with His laws and they know Him by their history and await the fulfillment of His promises. His name was to be in the temple, and the temple was often called the place for the Name of the Lord. He was to choose the place where His name would dwell, in Deuteronomy, and when the temple was built much later in history it was known as the place of His name. His name was to be protected and thus the concepts of “chillul Ha-Shem” and “Kiddush Ha-Shem” arose. Chillul Ha-Shem is referring to a profanation of the Name of the Lord, or reputation thereof. Kiddush Ha-Shem is referring to a deed that sanctifies or gives credit to the Name of the Lord. 5) While they continue to worship and pray together in synagogues, or houses of assembly awaiting the time when the Temple can be re-built when the Messiah comes. They stay in waiting for their day. (Some modern Jews reject this waiting for the rebuilding of the temple and revival of sacrifices and feel that worship in their homes and synagogues is all that is needed.)
Islam's characteristics of God take a turn for the personality of their prophet, in characteristics such as: the Abaser (Al-Khaa-fid), the Humiliator (El-Mut-ill), the Destroyer or bringer of death (Al-Mumeet), the Preventer (Al-Maani), the Distress-or or Harmer (Al-Daar), the Cunning (Al Maker), the Giver of Dishonor or Misguidance (Al-Mu’dhell). He is capricious in his nature, in one tradition saying as he divided the earth in two, this one to hell and this one to paradise, “what do I care?”. He is a dictator expecting full slavery and resignation of will to him. He guides who he wills and leads astray who he wills. His attitude towards the believers varies on his moods and may or may not be merciful, leaving all Muslims with a deep sense of fatalism. Insha-Allah: As God wills it, is the theme of conversation as to what probably won’t happen. These attributes that all Muslims find reverence and comfort in 3) reflect the person of the prophet of Islam and what he wanted his Allah to be, and how Allah might be better suited to his purpose. As one reads the Quran in a historical progression, one can see the changes in the prophets ideas about Allah, Allah changes from the one demanding monotheism to one ready to fight and kill even those “people of the book”. (The expression used for the Jews and Christians) His character shifts as his agenda shifts.
While in the Old Testament we see the early Jewish understanding of God, we see Him relating to His people where they were, and what they could accept in their time. The fullness of His identity was still hidden within the temple, and even the priests walked into His presence ready to be struck down if an error occurred. Only a few began to stumble into His real identity as their desire to know Him better brought them to a personal relationship outside the walls of the temple and into a friendship. It is only when Christ (the Messiah long awaited) comes that the veil is rent and our God reveals Himself as being willing to walk among us. The temple of His Name is rebuilt in us! His true identity is shown: Love. And while we as Christians still struggle to overcome our own barriers to get to know Him, He is revealed more and more as we draw to Him. Just as the early Israelites drew gradually closer, we are given a better light to see Him by with each day!
But to think that Islam of the sixth century Arabia would like to kidnap God and take Him back to the early days of worship, of blood sacrifice and wars, this is the real darkness of Islam. We are given the gift to understand Him better now than ever before progressing in our understanding of Him, instead of approaching Him as the pagans did with sacrifice in hopes for appeasement of the angry capricious deity, we are now permitted to approach His throne of Grace as a child comes to his Father with confidence and relationship. We are no longer slaves of God but children!
We pray now to our Lord asking things in the Name of His Son Jesus that our words will be to Him under the stamp of His beloved Son. We know that Jesus is the one who took us from knowing God from behind the veil, to knowing He Lives amongst us. He brought us to the knowledge of who God always intended for us to know Him as. He is perfecting us through His Son and His spirit so that we might see Him fully, as He fully knows us. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Cor 13:12
As I think back to my childhood I actually remember being asked by a teacher what my parents names were and I hadn’t a clue. They were to me Mom and Dad, and this is what I told her. She knew what I meant and sent me home to inquire about their other names. This is why it no longer matters to me what God’s name is, because He is Daddy to me. We as Christians know Him better than all, since as any parent will tell you, the voice of their child calling out Mama or Daddy will bring them faster to their feet than any name they were given.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. John 1: 12-13
Let us be thankful for God for all things in the name of Jesus Christ!
1.Rumpelstilskin is an old Germanic tale that was gathered by the Brothers Grimm and published first in 1812. How long the tale had been in circulation when they brought it to the publishing is anyones guess. It apparently appears in many other cultures as well under other names.
1.Thus the long lists of genealogies in the Biblical texts found throughout the Bible. Matthew and Luke are sure to place Christ’s genealogy at the forefront of their Gospels, showing where Christ came from historically, tribally and thus reflecting his standing in the community.
1.“You shall also recount in the Book the story of Abraham: He was a prophet and a saintly man...And when Abraham had cast off his people and the idols which they worshipped, We gave him Isaac and Jacob.” Quran 19: 41 &49
1.Examples include: In Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image..” And in the Quran 12:21-22 “Thus We found a home for Joseph, and taught him to interpret the mysteries. Allah has power over all things, though most men may not know it. And when he reached maturity We bestowed on him wisdom and knowledge. The We reward the righteous”
1.Judiasm 101: The Name of G-D article: found on
1.The names of Allah are quite popular with Muslims, and they have them in a list of 99 “beautiful” names. They are attributes that they associate with Allah, not proper names. They are commonly used as name basis for children of the devout and are used in combination with the word “slave of” or “servant of”. Curiously, many of the negative names listed in this article are not used in this manner.
Allah of Islam vs God of
In the Name of God
Modern studies have shown that a name often does have an impact on a person's life in many ways. For instance, if your name is more common you are more likely to be hired.
“You shall not take the name of the your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.
Who is Allah really? His name is translated easily into THE GOD, but who that god is to his people really reflects who he is.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
to Allah of the Quran who is called The Humiliator, The Destroyer, The Preventer, The Distresser, The Cunning, The Giver of Misguidance.
Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son’s name? Surely you know!
And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.